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UPDATED – Strange brew: Beer-drinkers harness their hobby for new bio-fuel, “Brewtroleum”

UPDATE – 3.53pm July 6

New Zealanders have become the first in the world to power their cars with commercial biofuel from beer, following today’s launch of the “DB Export Bretroleum”. Unveiled at Gull Kingsland in Auckland, hundreds of customers lined up to give the new fuel a go, creating a bit of a traffic jam on Great North Road.

The new beer-fuel will be sold at 60 of the company’s service stations across the North Island from today.

An initial batch of 300,000 litres has been produced using 30,000 litres of ethanol, extracted from more than 58,000 litres of leftover yeast slurry that would’ve originally been used up as stock feed, or thrown away.

According to an article from the NZ Herald, the first lot of fuel will last about six weeks, and then potentially turned into a long-term offering.


“Brewtroleum” is the name of the soon-to-be product, with DB saying it releases fewer carbon emissions and is generally all around more environmentally friendly.

DB’s campaign for Brewtroleum breaks the production process in stages A, B and C.

DB spokesman Simon Smith said the company expects the testing stages of Brewtroleum to wrap up soon and is excited that the product may actually be a commercially-viable fuel alternative.

“We are at an advanced stage in negotiations with a major NZ petrol retailer,” he says, with the partnership due to be announced “in the next few weeks”.

DB has been working on the strange brew since February. The company line is that they had been “having a yarn” about what could be done with the yeast left over from their beer production. “The idea was purely derived from the guys having an idea over a few beers”.

Discussions about a beer-powered biofuel began developing, and the by-product was promptly sent off to a lab to see how much ethanol could be extracted from it.  

Research and testing by DB Export and relevant experts found that the yeast slurry left over from their brewing process could be distilled to produce high-grade ethanol. Composed of 10% ethanol and 90% petrol, the final product is 98-octane fuel that can be used in any petrol engine. 

DB’s advertising campaign explains the biofuel production process in a series of videos comprehensible to beer lovers nation-wide.

While DB Export has technically accomplished a New Zealand first by distilling a biofuel composition from beer, the company follows in the footsteps of NZ fuel provider Gull, which started production of dairy-wastage based biofuel in 2007.

NB. Despite the campaign’s tagline “drink beer to save the world”, the environmentally inclined might be better actually buying the fuel to reap the benefits.

What else is happening in the world of alternative petrol?

It’s not just tipplers who are contributing alternatives to the world’s energy crisis.

Bavarian automaker BMW reportedly has plans to have a vehicle powered by a hydrogen fuel cell stack on the market by 2020, Kiwi company LanzaTech have announced their development of transportation fuels from waste gases, and Audi has developed a synthetic fuel called e-benzin, which can be used to substitute traditional petrol.

And that’s just for starters. 

Sci-Fi turned reality for Danish waste-to-energy power plant

Designs for a Danish waste to energy power plant that will house a ski field and emit smoke rings shows that alternative fuel can be pretty cool.

Designers Bjarke Ingels Group, often referred to as BIG, aimed to add functionality to their design of the waste-to-energy power plant, instead of just covering it with a flash looking skin.

The ski slope on the roof will offer rookie to experienced levels and the skiers will have an elevator to take them to the top, with the journey affording the passengers a view inside the plant.

To remind local residents of their carbon footprint, the building will emit a so-called smoke ring every time 250 kilograms of carbon dioxide has been released into the atmosphere. These rings – which will actually be vapor rather than smoke – will be expelled through a 124-metre-high chimney at the peak of the roof.

Each ring is expected to be visible for approximately 45 seconds, depending on the conditions. Lasers connected to a heat-sensitive tracking system will illuminate smoke rings released at night.

The building is currently the largest environmental initiative in Denmark, with a budget of $661 million (USD) and is scheduled for completion in 2016.

Watch the designed Bjarke Ingels discuss the planning of the plant and the company’s business motivations:

Kiwi energy company Z plan to turn meat waste into biodiesel

On an ickier note, Z Energy is planning to use tallow – an inedible fat by-product from meat works – to make a sustainable alternative fuel.

Z Energy will mix tallow with ordinary diesel to make an estimated 20m liters of bio diesel a year from 20,000 tonnes of tallow.

The company says that their patented batch process will use lower temperatures and pressures than other tallow biodiesel production, making  their plant cheaper to run, and, it follows, easier to get a return on.

There is, of course, the risk that higher prices may mean customers will chose price-point over sustainability, so Z is attempting to mitigate this risk by asking its supply chain to share the expected upside and downside price movements.

Green roofs

France is currently leading the charge with several sustainability initiatives, including its recent adoption of a law that mandates covering rooftops of new buildings in its commercial zones with plants or solar panels.

Green roofs have an isolating effect, the government says, helping reduce the amount of energy needed to heat a building in winter and cool it in summer. The plants help retain rainwater and reduce runoff, and green cover also improves biodiversity, giving birds a place to nest in urban environments.

Green roofs are common in Germany and Australia, and in 2009, the Canadian city of Toronto adopted a by-law that mandates industrial and residential buildings likewise cover rooftops with greenery. 

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